Sunday, May 26, 2013

Delivering the new boat - Italy to Montenegro

Time rolls on as time tends to do, which is my way of saying even with the best of intentions to update this blog on a regular basis, I have not been so diligent.
So 5 weeks after the delivery from Italy to Montenegro, here is the account of it as best as I can remember.

Myself, JS and AS arrived on the boat at 2030 after a flight from Montenegro to Slovenia and a 2 hour drive to the boat, only to be greeted by the engineers who where madly trying to finish off the jobs that should have been completed weeks earlier! All in all though the guys did do a reasonable job and we had no major issues on the trip.
The provisions went aboard along with several cases of Italian wine that is so hard to find in Montenegro. Systems were tested, the spotlight rigged up to a spare battery (this was essential for navigating out of the narrow channel from the marina to the Adriatic sea), fuel was delivered by jerry can with the help of a couple of great friends who also had a boat near by (thanks guys!), a pizza eaten, immigration taken care of, 101 things madly stowed, and we were away by 0200.
After a slow meander through a very narrow channel on a moonless night where the spotlight came into its own by illuminating the post that were spaced every 100 meters or so, we headed out into open sea bound for Croatia.
Heading for the Adriatic

Given that the boat had been sitting on the hard for over 2 years, she performed very well. On entering the open sea, we fired up the auto pilot which truly is something from a nautical museum complete with its manual course dial! It is the type where you steer a course on the helm, check the course on the compass, dial it up on the auto pilots compass card, then turn on the pilot. Immediately we thought it was not working at all as it didn't seem to hold a course, veering wildly all over the place. The thought of having to steer the entire 340 nautical miles back the MNE popped into my mind which was not appealing at all! Fortunately during the first watch, I managed to figure out that the compass card on the pilot was about 30 degrees off that of the actual compass. Then I noticed that although it would correct the course when applying starboard helm, the pilot pump did not engage when correcting to port. This meant for the first day and a half we had to turn the wheel to port every time the pilot tried to engage the pump to port to give it a helping hand. This was a better compromise than hand steering all the way and we figured we could live with this, but then suddenly after a bit of tweaking by our resident Engineer AS, it started to work and has done so ever since.

After a 6 or 7 hour passage, we made landfall in Croatia at the historical town of Rovinj.

The first night

This old city has to be on of the worlds most photogenic old towns complete with its narrow winding medieval streets, and iconic church spire.
Alas, this was not a sightseeing trip, so after clearing customs and immigration, we moved to the fuel dock.
We had maintained an easy 7 knots the first night at 2000 revs on the twin 130 hp Volvos. This proved to be an efficient sweet spot with a fuel consumption of just 10 liters per hour.
After an hour or so filling the tanks, finding fresh coffee and pastries, and checking the weather forecast, we left Rovinj with thoughts of returning one day for a better look.

I had been watching the forecast for weeks prior to the trip and knew there was a late season low forming in the northern Adriatic. The reason we decided to leave at 2am on the first night rather than wait until first light was so that we could get as far south as soon as possible where the winds would be lighter. It also meant we had the option to head inside the island chain south of the Istria penensular to escape the southerly sea before it really kicked up. True to the prognosis from days earlier, the low continued to develop behind us. As we motored down the Istria peninsular, we heard regular southerly gale warnings broadcast from the Croatian weather service!

Day 2

The southerly come in around noon and continued to build throughout the afternoon and early evening to a force 5 or 6. Short steep seas followed the wind, but rather then be any real problem, we simply increased the revs to 2200 in order to maintain 7 knots (starting to be very thankful for the overpowered twin screw boat now), shut the door, turned on the windscreen wipers, and made a pot of coffee!
The previous night after hemorrhaging cash for a couple of months as you do when you purchase a new boat, I admitted to my fellow crew that I had a touch of buyers remorse; however, sitting there in the fading afternoon light, pushing onto a headwind in comfort whilst enjoying a chicken curry and a glass of red, I began to wonder why we had stuck with a sail boat for so long! Buyers remorse no more!

By 2300 we were approaching the the southern end of Molat and our chosen entrance into the islands. Immediately upon ducking behind the islands, although the wind was still up, we found a lovely stretch of much calmer water which allowed those sleeping to catch a little more quality rest.

Nostra Signora has an old radar that still works like a treat. That second night as we wove our way inside the islands, it really did come into its own. In fact, if it had not proven itself on the first part of the trip, we would have stayed outside the islands at night and would have been still bouncing around pushing into head seas. Thank you radar!
Night 2

By first light we were at the southern end of the Kornati Islands. The wind was still up so the seas increased slightly as we left the protection of the islands, there was a more pressing problem on board however......we had run out of milk which was not an option for the morning tea and coffee!
After a quick check of the chart we decided to pop into Rogoznica. There is well established and recently expanded marina located in the well protected bay - Marina Frapa. But as we only needed some simple supplies we nosed into the old dock were the ancient fishing village was slowly awakening.

2nd Morning

Marina Frapa
AS jumped ashore and was soon back aboard with all we needed not only for our hot beverages, but also a great scrambled egg with local sausage and fresh bread. This we cooked hove too (can you call it that on a motor boat?) in the lee of a small bay just prior to heading back out in the the head seas.

The rest of the day we headed south into decreasing sea and wind. We took the opportunity to spend the first real time up on the fly bridge, and to catch up on some sleep.
Come late afternoon / evening, we found ourselves meandering along the Korcula channel, enjoying another wonderful meal (pre-cooked by my wife for the trip), a glass of Italian wine, and a spectacular sunset.
Shortly there after as the sky darkened, we passed what is my favorite old town - Korcula.

Enjoying a meal on the 2nd evening


The final night of the delivery took us south between Mljet and the mainland, inside the Elaphite Islands, and onto Gruz, Dubrovniks main harbor where we arrived at 0400. Here we cleared out of Croatia and continued on the last leg of the trip back to Montenegro.

By 0700 we were just south of Cavtat and only a couple of hours from home. A light southerly had started to pick up as forecast, so I headed in towards the cliffs in order to get out of the wind and light chop so that those sleeping would have a better ride. Suddenly I noticed a school of tuna feeding on bait fish! All three of us love to fish, so our eta of 0900 in Montenegro ended up being 1200, but we did bag ourselves 1/2 a dozen bonito, making the delay well worth while.

Fishing for tuna

The last day

Welcome home


On arrival, we were greeted by family and friends who came to check out the new boat and enjoy a couple of beers in the lovely afternoon sun on the flybridge!

Finally, thanks to JS and AS for helping me with the delivery!

Maiden 340 mile delivery

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